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Bristol Council puts Populous arena on hold

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Bristol City Council has suspended plans for a £124 million, 12,000-seat arena designed by Populous, following a value-for-money review of the proposals

According to the AJ’s sister-title Construction News, the mayor of Bristol has instructed consultant KPMG to expand the scope of a pending review to bring in ‘fresh possibilities’ for the site.

The council says the review will analyse Populous’s current design, which it believes will add ‘significant costs’ to the project, as well as the location and the possibility of private financing as part of a thorough assessment of options. 

The practice won the go-ahead for its plans for the arena in April 2016. The scheme also included outline proposals for 19,000m² of offices, leisure, housing and hotel development. Populous’s team, which features Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and BuroHappold Engineering, won the competition for the project in November 2014, beating consortiums headed by Grimshaw, Spain’s IDOM, White Arkitekter and Wilkinson Eyre.

KPMG’s report is expected next month, with the council’s cabinet set to make a decision in January.

Contractor Buckingham Group had been appointed under a preconstruction services agreement by the council, and the review comes after the firm presented a target cost for construction of the arena.

A Bristol City Council statement said: ‘Buckingham’s work will now be paused until the KPMG review is received and considered.

‘A pause at this stage of the preconstruction phase of a project is not unusual and it means the council will not be paying a contractor whilst there is no final decision on how to move forward.’

The current projected budget for the arena is £123.5 million, for which funding is available from the Economic Development Fund (£53 million), operator contribution and income (£42.5 million) and infrastructure funding associated with the wider Temple Meads East project (£28 million).

Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees said: ‘Buckingham has done a good job and we now need to see what the wider review of the project says.

‘I remain 100 per cent committed to delivering an arena for Bristol and, with this in mind, it is right to look at every available option, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each.

‘We can’t commit to the current design on this specific site at any cost and I wouldn’t want that kind of blinkered approach to become the arena’s undoing.’

Buckingham was confirmed as the preferred bidder for the Arena project in June after Bouygues UK walked away from the project.

The UK arm of the French contractor decided to exit the scheme after failing to agree a price with the client for the work. 

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